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October 22, 2018 at 11:27 PM EDT

The battles are nearing an end for this season of The Voice, which means we’re inching ever nearer to the knockouts and then the live rounds (which finally allows the audience to get in on the game with voting after so much emotional investment in these artists). In other words, there’s a lot of show to go, and we’re still learning something new about these contestants with every round advancement.

Tonight, a slate of promising contestants reclaim the stage, and some are convincing enough to earn their way through right away, while others are good enough to be saved by the steal. Either way, this season is really stacking up to be a promising one on the talent production front because there are a surprising amount of instant favorites cropping up this year. Things are only going to get tougher from here as the coaches whittle down their teams to the best of the best.

Let’s take a look at who makes it through this time.

Team Blake: Keith Paluso vs. Dave Fenley
“I’m a One Woman Man” by George Jones

Blake Shelton has no choice but to pick a winner from his duo, which is a position the other judges do not envy after Paulso and Fenley tackle this classic country number with everything they’ve got. Each gent matches the enthusiasm and quirkiness of the original in their delivery, and Keith especially gets extra points for experimenting with the most fanciful moments of the piece by riffing without abandon.

This competition is Dave’s to lose, though. His rich, gravelly voice was better served by his Travis Tritt number from the blinds mind you, but he’s still without question the more compelling vocalist of the two here tonight. Despite Keith’s best efforts to take center focus, he just can’t. However, Adam Levine remembers how much he liked Keith’s lower-than-low rock growl surprise in the blinds (and how Blake blocked him then), so he’s all too eager to snag Keith from being sent home and, hopefully, pair him with a song in his preferred genre going forward.

Winner: Dave Fenley
Steal: Keith Paluso to Team Adam.

Team Adam: Reagan Strange vs. Emily Hough
“Photograph” by Ed Sheeran

There’s at least one moment in every season of The Voice where you’re pretty much a monster if you don’t feel something from what’s being thrown down on that stage, and this is one of them. The battle — if you even can call it that — between Reagan Strange and Emily Hough is so heartening and lovely that it’s hard to believe Adam Levine has to pick one of them to win, let alone send the other one home. Both are super young (Emily is 16, and Reagan is just 13!) and they’ve both got a wowing amount of maturity in their vocals with the spritely ballad.

Emily’s got a subtle seasoning to her sharp tones, but Reagan’s voice is also astoundingly steady and full. During the performance, Emily is more audible and perhaps a bit more unique sounding, but Reagan has an undeniable amount of control and composure. Every note she tries is landed so beautifully I feel like we need an Olympic ice dancing commentator in the rafters scoring her flawless execution. As her coach Adam Levine notes, she just has “it,” and while Emily doesn’t deserve to go home (and it’s surprising that no one spares a steal for her), she has earned this W tonight.

Winner: Reagan Strange
Steal: N/A.

Team Jennifer: Franc West vs. Matt Johnson
“Too Close” by Alice Clare

It took Matt Johnson 15 seasons to get his spot on The Voice, but sadly, his stint on the show is over almost as soon as it’s begun. Franc West may have been a one-chair turn in the blind auditions, but it was clear even then that he had something special going on with his gritty, deep, and unique voice.

Even though Matt has a similarly deep lower register reach and so much more control of his instrument, Franc’s tones are just so compelling and commanding that he’s hard to overlook the whole song through. He might not deliver as clean a performance as his competition, but that raw energy is even better when uncontained so far. As JHud puts it, “The show’s called The Voice, so you have to be about the voice.” It’s a no-brainer, really.

Winner: Franc West.
Steal: N/A.

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A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.
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seasons
15
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run date
04/26/11
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